On 1st January, 2010, at legendary club The Smell, LA band Mika Miko let out their last breath, after several years of skull-breaking with their steamrolling punk. They wanted to go back to school and start other, more stimulating projects. While sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin formed Bleached, looking for the sun in the genre, drummer Kate Hall teamed up with Stephanie Chan and Mark Greshowak in Dunes, exploring sounds away from punk. A few months after Mika Miko split up, Dunes released “Old Souls”, a 7” single on Art Fag. Alongside a self-titled EP on Mexican Summer, they then put out the single “Tied Together”, with a cover of Q Lazzarus' mythical “Goodbye Horses” on the flipside. They’re now signed to Post Present Medium, the label of Dean Spunt ( No Age) - another LA sound terrorist and friend of Hall's - in order to release their first album, “Nocticula”.
Here we find vocal harmonies by the two female band members (Greshowak plays guitar and bass), that could lead to people thinking we're dealing with another girl-group. Granted, the description so far given could well be that of a record by Vivian Girls and, geographically, Dum Dum Girls - but Dunes really have nothing to do with the former, and with Dee Dee Penny they only share a certain fixation with fuzz-pop and Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders. If you really have to compare them with other artists, let it be Warpaint, another Californian band. With them, they share a passion for slightly dark nineties indie-rock; a track like “Vertical Walk” has a very Warpaint-like drum rhythm and some very similar choruses. The same could be said for “Shadow”, with Kate Hall's percussion taking us for a gallop. The guitars, on the other hand, sound best on “Lonely Palm”, with Johnny Marr-like riffs and a voice reminiscent of Siouxsie. Plus, there are some dream-pop moments, like on “Living Comfortably”.
Regarding the production, as discussed, this has nothing to do with Mika Miko's punk; furthermore, they've almost completely moved away from the lo-fi sound of some of the tracks on their self-titled debut EP. In fact, “Old Souls” is the sound most similar to “Nocticula”. The only (post-)punk concession here is the lethargic closing track, “Tied Together” - with its carefully dosed dissonance, in the vein of Women. In short, a decent record that doesn't feature too many banalities - a rarity these days.